Modeling Mary: Our Pilgrimage of Faith
The Church made an unexpected statement about the Blessed Virgin Mary during the Second Vatican Council. At this meeting of bishops, Church leaders referred to Mary’s life as a pilgrimage of faith, a theme Blessed John Paul II explored and further developed in his encyclical letter Mother of the Redeemer, as he spoke of the Church’s faith pilgrimage.
This reference to Mary’s faith journey was unexpected because pilgrimage implies movement toward a goal, and prior to the Second Vatican Council, the Church rarely thought of the Virgin Mary as progressing in her faith. This point is important because even the deepest faith does not bring clear knowledge of the ways in which God sustains and accompanies our lives and our world. Blessed John Paul II tells us that faith at times involves a perplexity, a heaviness of heart, such as that described by Saint John of the Cross as a dark night of faith in which our understanding is clouded or tested.
A Gospel Portrait of Mary
The gospels present the life of Mary in a larger context. Mary, together with Joseph, Elizabeth, Zachary, Simeon, and Anna, were all part of the faithful remnant of God’s Chosen People, Israel, awaiting the coming of the Redeemer. Their hope was in the promise made to Abraham and sustained by the Scriptures, particularly the psalms. The second way in which the gospels outline the figure of Mary is as the first disciple of Christ. An image and example for all followers of Christ, she marks the beginning of the Church.
Two events in Mary’s life that exemplify this Gospel presentation of Mary are the Annunciation, where Mary was told she would be the Mother of Christ, and the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. Both events demonstrate an outpouring of God’s spirit and prophecy.